India building infrastructure in northeast to boost trade

Agartala, July 16 (IANS) India is building new infrastructure and beefing up existing ones along the international border in the northeast to boost trade with neighbouring countries, officials said here Friday.

The northeastern region comprising eight states shares over 5,000 km of international boundaries with China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

‘Various departments and organisations of the commerce ministry have come forward to build international standard infrastructure along the border areas and provide various financial incentives and facilities to the northeast to enhance export and import with the neighbouring nations,’ said A.K. Mangotra, additional secretary in the commerce ministry.

Addressing a seminar on scope and opportunities of export from the northeast, he said the central government would also be building integrated checkposts (ICPs) at Akhaurah (Tripura), Dawki (Meghalaya) and Karimganj (Assam) – all along the border with Bangladesh.

These ICPs will have dedicated passenger and cargo terminals with adequate customs and immigration facilities, weigh bridge, security and scanning equipment, health and quarantine facilities and banks under one roof.

According to EXIM bank officials, four states- Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur– exported items of worth

Rs.1,394 crore and imported materials valued at Rs.237 crore in the last fiscal (2009-10).

These states mostly exported lime stones, tea and coal to Bangladesh and Myanmar, and imported cement, stone chips and Hilsa fish from Bangladesh.

‘Indo-Bangla trade is tilted heavily in India’s favour with a highly negative balance of trade for Bangladesh. However, providing transit and trans-shipment facilities, Bangladesh can help itself access and derive further economic advantages from a market that is estimated to be over $20 billion, which is more than double the trade deficit of Bangladesh with India,’ said Jitendra Chaudhury, commerce and industry minister of Tripura.

As per the agreement signed during Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi early this year, India will construct a bridge over Feni river in southern Tripura to get access to the Chittagong port for carrying goods and heavy machineries for the land-locked region.

The Bangladesh government has agreed to allow India to use the Chittagong port, about 75 km from Tripura’s southern border town Sabroom.

‘The proposed bridge, to be build at a cost of little over Rs.13 crore, would be the trading lifeline for not only for the whole of northeast India, but also southeast Asian countries,’ said Mangotra.

Chaudhury told the seminar, organised by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), that Tripura has engaged an international agency to formulate a perspective plan on promoting exports from the state.

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